Six Of The Best From County, To Leave Southport Well And Truly Grounded!
County returned to winning ways in incredible style against the ‘Soundgrounders’ from Southport – hitting them for six without reply under the Edgeley Park floodlights, and moving, with the help of that goal-difference boost, into the play-off positions.
It was the Hatters’ first six-goal haul in nearly 10 years, replicating the scoreline of a victory at EP against Wycombe Wanderers in League Two during December 2007 – and their first competitive triumph over Southport since a home-win by the odd goal in three, four decades ago this October.
Jim Gannon made three changes to the starting line-up that had taken to the field in SK3, and ground out a scoreless draw, against Bradford Park Avenue three days earlier. Stephen O’Halloran, following his recovery from an injury sustained at Spennymoor on the first day of the season, returned, together with Scott Duxbury and Darren Stephenson, in place of Dan Cowan, Connor Hampson and Chris Smalley, as the Hatters adopted a 4-4-2 formation.
County began the evening in the best possible way after only two minutes. Former Sandgrounder Darren Stephenson started a move from the halfway-line that found Matty Warburton – who, after playing the ball out to Jason Oswell on the right, finished matters by converting Oswell’s first-time, squared pass to give the Hatters an early lead.
Just over 20 minutes later, County’s advantage and Warburton’s tally were simultaneously doubled from the penalty-spot, after Jason Oswell latched on to a through-ball from Duxbury but was bundled over in the visitors’ box by Adam Dugdale. The Southport defender was shown a straight red card, and Warburton calmly converted from 12 yards past former County loanee-goalkeeper Mark Halstead.
Having been reduced to 10 men, the Sandgrounders had a far bigger dune to climb. Leading scorer Gary Roberts curled a free kick over from 25 yards, and Yves Zama drilled a low shot from distance to test Ben Hinchliffe – but County soon exerted an even greater control on proceedings.
Following efforts by Stephenson and Oswell that flashed narrowly shy of the left upright, captain Harry Winter struck a further, decisive blow after 39 minutes. Stephenson again initiated the attack – finding Duxbury, whose cross from the left was only cleared as far as the skipper. Winter duly fired home from 15 yards for his second goal of the season, and the Hatters were three-up.
But still, with half-time approaching, they were not done. Stephenson won a corner just ahead of added time, and Sam Minihan’s short delivery to Sam Walker was crossed from the left by the latter for Oswell to head in County’s fourth of the night and his own eighth for the campaign.
HALF-TIME: County 4 (Warburton, 2 and 24 (penalty); Winter, 39; Oswell, 45), Southport 0.
The visitors went close two minutes after the resumption, when ex-County youngster Curtis Jones saw his header nodded off the line by O’Halloran.
But within another five minutes, and following the award of the first corner since the break, the Hatters had extended their lead further. Sam Walker’s dead-ball delivery from the right was met by Jimmy Ball, who opened his goal-scoring account for the season with a right-footed shot.
And two minutes ahead of the hour-mark, County made it six. Sam Walker earned his third assist of the evening with a free kick from the left that was headed in by Oswell.
Halstead prevented an increase in the goal-count by brilliantly tipping over a Ball free kick and keeping out another Oswell header, before Stephenson went close with a snap-shot following Cowan’s cross from the left. But, no matter – 40 years of hurt could finally be considered over.
FULL-TIME: County 6 (Warburton, 2 and 24 (penalty); Winter, 39; Oswell, 45 and 59; Ball, 52), Southport 0.
Team: Hinchliffe, Minihan (Cowan, 54), Duxbury, Ball, Clarke, O’Halloran, Stephenson, Winter (Capt.), Oswell (Hampson, 69), Warburton (T Walker, 63), S Walker.
Unused Subs: Smith, McKenna.
Booked: T Walker, Duxbury.
Man of the Match: Oswell.
Attendance: 2,702 (157 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Pics: Jams Gill
Matty Warburton interview
Filmed & edited by Daniel Powell